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Prayers for Miami Hurricanes dad Gary Bush (cancer surgery today); His son, starting safety Deon Bush, vows to stay strong.

If you believe in prayer, positive energy, uplifting thoughts, now is a good time to send some the way of Gary Bush, father of UM sophomore safety Deon Bush.

Gary spoke with me again last night. He was scheduled to have cancer-related surgery this morning.

I wrote a story http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/31/3531847/miami-hurricanes-safety-deon-bush.html about Gary and his plight last week. He is an outstanding person with a big heart, not to mention the husband of a former collegiate basketball player and father of three impressive athletes.

Son Gary Jr (they call him GJ) is a fifth-year senior wideout for Purdue, daughter Nya is a middle-school hoops star and wife and mom Michele is a former UM and North Carolina Central basketball player who is the assistant principal at Coconut Palms K-8 Academy in Homestead.

Gary, 51, an extremely fit and healthy man most of his life, discovered he had liver cancer in late April. A science teacher at Southridge High now on leave, he's gone through debilitating chemotherapy and many painful days, but he said his strong faith has carried him through.

Gary is known in the Miami-Dade community for helping youngsters in need, whether they be youngsters who can't afford to join youth sports programs or buy uniforms and equipment, or Southridge students who need lunch money. He's a very good soul.

The surgery this morning was to see if it was possible to cut out the cancerous part of his liver, and remove his gallbladder, he told me. The chemo seemingly had helped enough to at least try, he said.

"I would like people to keep supporting my family and continue to pray for me,'' Gary said last night. "I want to dedicate the rest of my life to do what I can to help people in need. I have trust that God is going to be with me through the surgery.''

Gary attended UM football practice Tuesday morning as his son, Deon, jogged around the field, played catch and rehabilitated on the sideline. Deon had three sports hernias repaired during outpatient surgery in June, but is expected to soon be integrated into practice. 

"I wanted to see him before the surgery,'' Gary, who played football with Hall of Famer Jerry Rice at Mississippi Valley State, said of Deon. "It was good to smell the odor of football. I'm hungry for it.''

One of Gary's goals: "to make it to that first game so I can see the Canes put a Whoopin' on the opponent.''

That would be FAU of Boca Raton.

Deon told me on Sunday that he and his siblings are keeping each other strong.

"We're just doing what we always do,'' said Deon, 6-1 and 203 pounds, "talking to each other, trying to make our parents proud, coming to practice and work everyday to get better. School is important. We're trying to keep our grades up. 

"I had to grow up a little bit more during this offseason and stay strong for my parents.''

Deon said he's able to stay focused "because I know that's why my father wants, that's what everybody wants. "I believe everything is going to be alright. I play with that peace of mind.''

He said his "personal goal is just to get better and work hard every day to make my team better. I'm an aggressive player but I'm trying to learn how to be smart and make better decisions.

"I could have known the playbook a little more and used better techniques to catch some interceptions. That's what I'm trying to work on this year.''

As it was, Bush finished his freshman season with 34 tackles in 10 games (six starts), three pass breakups and tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with three forced fumbles.

 I asked UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio about Deon's tough situation.

"No doubt,'' D'Onofrio said, "but Deon is a great kid and he has a great family and we're all praying for those guys and wishing the best and here to support them. That's part of being a team and being around these guys. When you're around a place for a while and you get involved with the kids and their families during the recruiting process, you get a chance to know them well.

"We were all involved in recruiting Deon heavily. We were all there to see his mom and dad when we could. They're a great family.''

To send Gary Bush a get well message, go to his website http://www.teammiamibasketball.com/home.html

***  Quick notes from this morning's practice: quarterback Stephen Morris was given a chance to rest his arm, and backup Ryan Williams ran with the first team. Also resting and acting as an on-field coach was defensive end Shayon Green. Malcolm Lewis also was given an opportunity to rest in the morning. 

*** Deon (hernia surgery) is still in a red, no-contact jersey; Defensive end Anthony Chickillo (ankle) wore yellow (limited contact); OT Sunny Odogwo was back for the first time without a yellow, limited-contact jersey; Freshman cornerback Corn Elder (hamstring) was in red again.

***Olsen Pierre, who is listed as a starting defensive tackle, practiced at end Wednesday.

*** Outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister, a junior, wore a black first-team jersey Wednesday, while freshman Alex Figueroa, listed as a first-team OLB on the depth chart, was in green.